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The Malcolm Hardee Awards and after – President Obonjo to buy Greenland?

President Obonjo and his fearsome bodyguards attended the Malcolm Hardee Awards last night

I am in London.

The Edinburgh Fringe is, as tradition dictates, in Edinburgh.

Up in Edinburgh, the 2019 Malcolm Hardee Awards were announced and presented last night – well, this morning, because the anarchy started at midnight – in the Ballroom of The Counting House during the traditional 2-hour stage show.

The winners were – indeed still are –

Legs display their Malcolm Hardee Award to its best advantage


West End Producer

President Obonjo

The Awards were classier and glitzier than in previous years because, I hear, the judges were supplied with chips during their deliberations. That never happened in previous years when dry and occasionally stale biscuits were sometimes, but not always, provided.

For American readers: ‘chips’ are French fries. (Sometimes I think George III did us a favour by getting rid of the Colonies.)

President Obonjo, who was also compering the show, arrived with a group of threatening-looking bodyguards. They remained throughout the night and ushered him on-and-off stage in case the deeply-dodgy BBC Studios or E4/Channel 4 had any pickpockets or muggers working in the vicinity.

The mysterious West End Producer

Fellow Award-winner ‘West End Producer’ arrived in his mask, wore it throughout and left in it so Mysterious Mark – organiser of the Awards on behalf of the British Comedy Guide – tells me: “We still don’t actually know who he is.”

Some of the full-house audience apparently walked out after a time, reportedly confused by the bizarreness of the acts: Tom Crosbie, Lucy Hopkins, Legs, Dragos Montenescu, Mandy Muden, Charles Quarterman, Scratch & Sniff and Twonkey.

According to judge Claire Smith, the walkouts were by a few slightly dazed people with startled looks in their eyes.

Fellow judge Kate Copstick confirmed the problem was a new Fringe app which tells people what shows are about to start nearby with the result that people turn up not knowing what the show actually is, just that it’s free.

The result last night, says Copstick was that “we got some young, slightly drunk people who mostly walked out during Twonkey’s performance”.

2016 Malcolm Hardee Award winner Twonkey apparently displayed a jaw-dropping excess of surrealism and, at one point, got thoroughly entangled in the leads of three microphones. It is unclear why he actually needed to have three microphones.

Someone who was in the audience last night tells me, though, that Twonkey managed to ignore the drunks and “pulled it around again, finishing with a blistering performance of Goat Girl – his song about a girl on a skiing holiday on ecstasy…”

Audience members try to restrain Lewis Schaffer last night

The audience contained a large smattering of other comedians including Lewis Schaffer, who may or may not have diabetes (his Fringe show is called Mr Diabetes) and who has been living for months on a diet which excludes all fruit & vegetables but includes lots of meat, some of it raw.

Claire Smith tells me: “He looks great. He has lost a lot of weight, which is good, but his breath smells horrible.”

Apparently, he has been seen around Edinburgh recently wearing a badge saying: YES, I KNOW MY BREATH STINKS.

This is, she tells me, partly because he now believes that eating no fruit or vegetables means he no longer needs to brush his teeth.

“I keep stumbling on him in Edinburgh,” Claire told me today, “crying in underpasses because he has accidentally eaten an avocado.”

Claire today also attended the other, less increasingly prestigious, comedy awards – Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards – where, she reports, significant numbers of half-starved young comedians were to be seen absconding with armfuls of the free croissants. (Dave’s sponsored Comedy Awards has a higher budget than the unsponsored Malcolm Hardee Awards).

President Obonjo salutes his Million Quid win

In later developments, President Obonjo announced he was thinking of putting in a bid to the Danish government to buy Greenland now that Donald Trump is out of the running…

And the BBC posted an online link to their World Service’s Focus on Africa which acknowledged that President Obonjo was “one of the few African comedy acts well known on the UK comedy circuit” (and, indeed, for the last ten years, the ONLY deposed African President/leader character on the UK comedy circuit)… which makes the self-proclaimed ignorance of the apparent Intellectual Property thieves at BBC Studios/E4/Channel 4 even more spectacularly jaw-dropping…

BBC Studios and E4/Channel 4 had originally been shortlisted for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award “for exponentially increasing the knowledge of, and sales for, President Obonjo with their ‘appalling theft of his character'”… but, on the night, they were trounced byWest End Producer –  a man in a rubber mask.


BBC World Service – President Obonjo

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Fitting & confused: pursued by a naked man at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe

A comedian, a bird and a fish in Perth this afternoon

Martin Soan, creator of the Greatest Show on Legs has been staying in the spare bedroom of my rented Edinburgh flat for a few days.

“I tell you what,” he said this morning, “let’s have a really nice breakfast. What do you fancy?”

“Black caviar,” I replied.

So he went out and got some from a local Turkish shop.

Yes, it surprised me too.

Then we went up the Blackford Hill to see my favourite view of Edinburgh.

“What shall we do next?” I asked.

“Let’s go to Poundland,” he suggested.

“Let’s go to Poundland in Perth,” I said.

And that’s what we did. Not much was happening in Perth on a Sunday. But there was a statue of a bizarrely cartoony bird standing on a fish. Martin posed by it and then we drove back to Edinburgh for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

There were two reviews of last Friday’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show waiting,

One was a 4-star review from Broadway Baby which, gratifyingly, called the Awards “increasingly influential” and said that “the weirdest and strangest acts of the festival came together for a bizarre evening… The two-hour variety show shocked as much as it entertained… it was undoubtedly an evening to remember… This deserves to be a staple of the Fringe.”

The other was a 5-star review from The Skinny which said:

The Spirit Of The Fringe’ is such an overused term that most people don’t even think it ever really existed, but it’s here tonight. The Malcolm Hardee Awards are the only gig of its type not to be polluted by lanyard-sporting industry people, air-kissing each other and looking for someone famous to talk to. Instead, these awards are a bunch of genuinely funny and creative people mucking about and having a laugh. What’s more, it’s open to the public who all seem to be passionate comedy fans, plus it’s free – which is probably the only element that Hardee wouldn’t have loved. Fun, passion, anarchy and a refusal to take oneself too seriously. This is what people come to Edinburgh for.

That review set things up for the Greatest Show on Legs’ final performance at The Hive venue. I arrived ten minutes before the show started and new Legs member Bob Slayer was still on stage performing his own show, looking a bit the worse for wear. His one-hour show had already run 1 hour 50 minutes. Eventually, he was persuaded off the stage by Martin Soan and the Greatest Show on Legs’ performance began.

Martin Soan rushes an audience member up to the stage

The Olympics Opening Ceremony re-created on-stage, Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands distorting faces, Afghan’s favourite Islamic ventriloquist, a polecat doing a sexy dance, the Naked Balloon Dance featuring Prince Harry and much more. The show was spectacularly anarchic.

The problem came in trying to get Bob Slayer off stage at the end. Eventually the other Legs – Martin Soan and Martin Clarke – simply dismantled the set around Bob while he sat and talked to the audience, naked apart from a Prince Harry mask held across his genitals.

“The show has ended,” Bob told the audience, “But you are now all officially in the after-show. I started comedy in 2008, and I was shit at it, but then I went to Martin Soan’s club in London and he said, Hey, Bob! I’ve got this idea. Why don’t you come out of a tent? So he put a pop-up tent on stage, I climbed in the back of it and came out the front. It was a stupid, ridiculous gag. The first three rows actually shit themselves and I thought This man is a comedy genius.

“Why did you start in comedy?” I shouted out.

“I started in comedy,” Bob answered, “because I’d been fired from every other job I’d ever had. Hands up who’s shit at their job!”

No hands went up.

“You’re all liars!” Bob shouted, then picked on a woman in the audience: “What do you do?”

“I’m a child minder,” she said.

“Don’t try to make me bloody believe,” Bob said, “that you’ve not battered one while the parents were out! You can’t like everyone’s children!…. And what do you do?” he asked a young man.

“I’m currently unemployed,” came back the reply.

“Yes,” Bob shouted at him, “and some days you’re even shit at that!… Look, what I’m teaching you here is the show is brilliant, but the after show is sometimes disappointing…. Big guy over there, what’s your question?”

“Mmmmm….” mused the big guy.

“Mmmmm….” mimicked Bob, “Do you want to eat me?”

There was a long pause.

Bob looked round the audience.

Bob Slayer talks as show is dismantled around him

“Why are you all still here?” he asked them gently, as Martin Soan and Martin Clarke, now clothed, started to dismantle the set and pack up the props around him. “Look,” he continued, “the good people are taking the stuff away. I was the shit one. I’m just sat here naked…”

“Not properly naked!” someone shouted out.

“…basically being sucked off by Prince Harry,” Bob added as an afterthought. He turned to Martin Soan, who was picking up the soft puppet of a pole cat. “You were wonderful,” Bob told Martin. “I’m sorry for me.”

“Encore!” someone shouted from the audience.

“Don’t you dare speak French to me,” Bob said.”If there’s one thing I hate more than people I hate, it’s French people. I love French people.” He paused. “I’m having an incoherent conversation with myself,” he continued.

“I’m off! Thanks!” someone yelled from the back of the audience.

“Once he’s left,” Bob said, “it’ll all make sense.”

The lights in the room flashed.

“Don’t you dare! Fuck off, Jamie!” Bob yelled at the booth at the back of the room. “I know they want to turn this into a nightclub at 10 o’clock! Look, I…”

The sound man started playing a throbbing disco tune as the stage lights darkened and the coloured disco lights flashed throughout the room.

“I started on the stage at 7 o’clock tonight!” Bob shouted over the music. “I shouldn’t be on this show! I just refused to get off. I shouldn’t be in the Greatest Show on Legs! I’m just an idiot! I’m sorry I ruined everything. You came here to see masters of comedy. We could have had an ending. It was brilliant. All I’ve done is crack on and on and on. Why are you still here? You can’t see me anyway!” he yelled above the rising music.

The music stopped and the stage lights went on.

“OK, you can see me,” Bob corrected himself as the audience roared. “I’m confused with the dark and the light.”

The throbbing disco music started up again, louder.

“I’m confused!” Bob shouted. “My life is over-done. But, I tell you what, I fucking love her,” he yelled, pointing at a random member of the audience. “And him!” pointing at a random man. “Why are you still here? Why are you all still here? Give it up! Give it up!”

The audience began to whoop and cheer.

“No!” Bob yelled. “Tell me to give it up!… I love you!… All!…”

The white house lights went fully up and the audience started to get up and leave.

Naked Bob leapt off the stage.

“Carry me! Carry me!” he yelled. “Carry me home!”

Martin Soan reads the 5-star show reviews

The throbbing disco music rose in volume. Bob started shouting incoherently. Two new members of the public came in and started shouting. The audience was leaving. Bob was pursuing them, staggering and still naked. He pushed through, naked, and got ahead of the audience and met them at the door as they left, shaking each person’s hand.

A naked man chasing members of a smiling, satisfied audience out of a venue that looks like the Cavern in Liverpool did in the early days of the Beatles.

A fitting end to an unsettled Edinburgh Fringe where everyone was confused by audience figures, income and the future. It will be the same next year, of course.  I hope.

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